Category Archives: Music Stories

Encouraging the Next Generation

Happy New Year!!

December and January have been super busy months, but that’s no excuse for neglecting to post anything. This won’t be long, but I wanted to share a thought with you.

This past Sunday, we had a college singing group visit the church. (These groups are near and dear to me because I was in a group in college as well.)

As I watched the group warm up before the service and sing during the service, it struck me that these young people are choosing to use their talents for the Lord. No one forced them to be in a singing group (as far as I know). No one was making them practice and travel. Good for them!

Most, if not all, of us have been in this same situation. We chose to serve in the music ministry at church growing up or while we were in college. Those were not the easiest of times. There were many times that I wanted to quit. It just didn’t seem “worth it.”

Encouraging words from kind church members made all the difference. Now that I am in the position on the other side of college (aka: getting older), I need to speak up and encourage the next generation.

Everyone needs encouragement. You may not know what someone is going through while they choose to serve the Lord in a church ministry.

But the next generation definitely needs our encouragement. If they quit serving in church, who will we have left?

Just a thought for this week. Sorry if it’s so deep. Enjoy your day!

Video: Piano Duet – I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord

This is an “old” video of my sister Christie and I playing a duet of “I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord.”

We arranged this on a Sunday afternoon and played it that night in church. I love playing duets with my sis!

Enjoy!

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

Falling Asleep at the Piano

No, the title isn’t referring to my falling asleep at the piano, as in my mind going to sleep. Although, I’ve been tired enough sometimes that I felt like I could fall asleep…

Anyway, what I’m referring to is my leg (my left leg) falling asleep while I’m playing. It happened this morning during the service, and I had to move my foot around to wake it back up.

This has happened to me several times at this piano. Mostly it happens during orchestra practice or another rehearsal, but this time it was during the actual service.

Thankfully, I was able to get the blood flowing again before I had to walk down the stairs.

My question is…why is this happening? It’s never happened before on/at any other piano I’ve played on?

Maybe the height of the bench is different?

Maybe I have my leg back at a bad angle?

Whatever the reason, I don’t like it. The feeling (or lack of feeling) is discomforting.

Why do you think this happens? Has it ever happened to you?

Help me out, please! I welcome your suggestions!

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

Sightreading Tips for Rehearsals

PianoLast night, I had the opportunity to practice with a group after church. They had been practicing on their own previously, and I was just coming in to rehearse before they sing in church.

I had never seen the music before last night. And they just expected me to sit down and play it!!

(Actually, I love sightreading so this didn’t bother me.)

Even though I’ve been sightreading for years, I still do certain things before I start to play. I thought I would share these “things” with you today:

1. Make sure you have the music open to the correct song. Yes, you would think this would be a no-brainer, but it never hurts to double-check. 🙂

2. Look through the music. When I do this, I look for the following items:

– Key signature – what key do I start in?

– Clef(s) – Do my hands start both in the treble or bass clef? Or are they normal?

– Time signature – Does the time signature change at all during the song?

– Tempo marking

– Repeats, D.C. al Coda, D.S. al Coda, codas, etc. – anything that means I have to jump around. If I have to go back to a Sign, I’ll always locate the Sign so I don’t have to search for it while I’m playing.

– Key changes – I don’t want to get thrown off or surprised by going to six sharps. I’d rather know ahead of time.

– Anything else out of the ordinary (unusual rhythms, notes cut off the pages, a capella sections, etc.).

3. After I look through the music, I ask the leader what they want the tempo to be. They usually will count or beat out a measure for me, which is very helpful.

4. Play away!!!

Don’t feel bad if you take a couple minutes to look through the music. The time you take at the beginning is worth it if you don’t have to stop or fumble through the rehearsal.

What else would you look for? Any fun sightreading stories?

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

Patience and Persistence

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Pistol Pete

Last night was a great night of lessons. I got home from work, fed the dogs quickly, changed clothes, and got ready to greet my first student.

Oh, and I put the dogs outside. This is very important.

The students had all practiced very well, so all their songs were prepared and ready. It was an exciting night of lessons because the musical alphabet was introduced. Flashcards were also given out.

Remember, the dogs were outside. Our dogs are normally inside dogs, but they stay outside during lessons so as not to distract me or the students.

We have a lab puppy who is growing bigger every day. And he’s eating a ton of food. Seriously.

We usually give him a bowl of food in the morning, one bowl around dinner time, and another bowl before bed. He’s a very patient dog. But he loves his food. I’ve worked with him to sit by his crate to wait for his food.

So now in the evenings, he will start sitting outside/beside his crate. This is his signal to me that he’s ready for his third bowl of food.

He did this last night several times, but I just wasn’t ready to give him the food yet. When I did give him the food, he sat by his crate and waited for me to put it down. Then it was gone.

Cool. My job was done. Or not…

A little bit later, I was sitting at the kitchen table working on my iPad. Pistol Pete (our lab) went into his crate, grabbed his food bowl in his mouth, and brought me his bowl! I looked at my husband like “is this for real?” and he said to go ahead and give him another small bowl. I did, and again it was gone very quickly.

Then a little bit later, he brought me his bowl again. He’s catching on quickly…

Musical moral of the story: I hope all my piano students will be patient and follow the practice steps I give them. At the same time, I hope they will be persistent in their desire to learn more.

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

Reflections of an Aunt

Almost sounds like a song name, right?

Today, my sister’s youngest girl turned 2 years old. This would be my youngest niece. (I had to think about that for a second.)

First of all, I can’t believe that I’m old enough for her to be turning two. I love being an aunt, and I love spoiling my nieces and nephews.

My sister’s oldest girl is just learning to play the piano. My sister is teaching her; you can read all about it here.

I went to visit my sister this past summer, and she suggested that maybe I could give Hope her weekly piano lesson. I said it didn’t matter to me either way, but that I would love to do it.

Well, we brought that subject up to Hopey, and she didn’t seem as excited about it. She was worried that I “might not be able to know where she was in her book and be able to catch up.”

My sister and I just exchanged amused smiles and kept quiet. Little did Hopey know that we use the same method books for our teaching.

Now that I’m teaching again back home, I get the privilege of teaching my two oldest nephews. We are having a blast!

Here’s hoping that tomorrow night they practiced their required time so I can give them a piece of candy!

(Oh, and by the way, my sister has this awesome blog called Small Steps, Big Picture – you should check it out!)

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

Chinese Food and Piano

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I was in the Sunday morning service and knew something was wrong.

Usually, I try to have coffee and eat something somewhat substantial on Sunday morning…especially if I’m playing for the morning service. I don’t have low blood sugar, but there are times when I feel lightheaded or weak or “out of it” if I haven’t had enough to eat.

This is how I felt when I started to play for the soloist. I had already played a ten minute prelude, played for four congregational songs, and the choir special.

I didn’t remember eating. I didn’t remember what had happened up to this point in the service. All I knew was that I couldn’t focus. My head was spinning and I felt all wobbly.

During the middle of the song, my hands started playing the wrong notes. I heard the notes as if they were in a tunnel. The soloist turned and looked at me questioningly.

I tried to recover. I had to keep going. Concentrate. Focus.

Nothing was working. Where were my hands? I couldn’t even see my music.

I would never live this down…

…I stirred and opened my eyes. Where was I?

Oh, it was a dream. It didn’t really happen. I’m in bed on a Saturday morning.

Whew. Praise the Lord!

Yes, I really did have this dream Friday night/Saturday morning. It was so real.

I don’t normally remember my dreams, but this one stuck with me.

I even went and practiced the song for the soloist for the next morning. Amazing how motivation works!

I was telling this story to my sister (who didn’t believe at first that I really had that dream), and she reminded of the time when she actually experienced this in real life.

I’m very thankful it was just a dream. I’m also thankful it happened Friday night instead of Saturday night, or I might have really been freaked out.

Sunday morning (the “real” Sunday morning), I remembered to have coffee and eat something with sustenence. And, thankfully, the worship service went well, even though my arms were a little tired when I was done.

Oh…the Chinese food, you ask? Couldn’t you guess? That was my dinner Friday night. It worked almost as good as pizza.

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

On this day…25 years ago…

Today’s date holds a special meaning for me.

Nope, it’s not my birthday.

Twenty-five years ago, on October 3rd, I started taking piano lessons. I was seven years old, and my mom dropped me off at my teacher’s house and watched me walk up to the door. According to my mom, I rang the doorbell then turned and waved excitedly at my mom, and sort of bounced up and down with excitement.

I don’t remember all of that, but I do remember that I was very excited about learning to play the piano. I had been wanting to learn how to play since I was five.

I would sit in church and watch the church pianists in awe, wishing that someday I could play like them.

My dad told me that if I really wanted to play the piano, I should pray for us to be able to get a piano. So, of course, I prayed with child-like faith. And on Christmas Day when I was six, I got my answer to prayer. You can see my huge smile in the picture below.

My Christmas present - a piano!

I was one very excited 6 year old!

I’m very thankful to say that twenty-five years later, I’m still playing the piano. And I’m the one now sitting at the piano with little girls looking up to me. I don’t take that responsibility for granted.

I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed playing every day of those twenty-five years. Have I ever wanted to quit? YES! Have I gotten worn out? YES! But, with the Lord’s help, I haven’t quit. And, for the majority of those twenty-five years, I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of my parents. They never complained about paying for lessons, or driving me to the teacher’s house, or hearing the same song played over and over and over and over.

I was telling my mom the other day that this twenty-five year anniversary was coming up. She said that all the money and time that they invested was totally worth it. She never once regretted it or thought about how she could have used that money elsewhere.

Also, my sister (and my closest friend) encouraged me. Part of her “encouragement” was by playing my hard-practiced songs by ear without practicing…but that just motivated me more. She also was there when I wanted to quit and helped me keep going. (Thanks, sis!)

There have been five private piano teachers over those twenty-five years, and they all influenced me both musically and socially and spiritually.

Throughout the years, there have been numerous people (too many to count or name) that have encouraged me in my piano music.

Playing for a Cystic Fibrosis Benefit Concert in 2011

Playing for a Cystic Fibrosis Benefit Concert in 2011

Lastly, my husband is my constant supporter. He thinks it is “so cool” that he can have a private concert anytime he wants.

Twenty-five years (yes, a quarter of a century) have come and gone, and I still love playing the piano!

Here’s to twenty-five more years!

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

Band-Aids and Accompanists

So…I was washing the dishes last night and one of the items was a glass spaghetti jar. (Always good to be frugal and reuse things, right?) Anyways, as I was carefully washing the glass jar, I was reminded of the time when I was traveling with a music group in college…

We were traveling during the summer and visiting a different church almost every night. At this particular church, they decided to feed us before the service. We were supposed to be polite and offer to help clean up, do the dishes, etc. I actually enjoy washing dishes (weird, I know) so I offered to do just that. However, during the dish-washing, I had my hand inside a mason jar when the jar just broke and, consequently, I cut my hand. (Remember, pianists have super strong hands!!)

Fun stuff!!! I was supposed to play for the service in less than an hour and now my hand was bleeding. (Ok…so it was just a small cut, but it did bleed. We pianists have to do something for attention every now and then.)

Someone found a Band-Aid for me, and I was able to get the cut to stop bleeding. It’s always kind of fun to play the piano with a Band-Aid on…makes you feel like you’re being so strong and brave!!

I remember during the intermission of our presentation (during the video), I went to the back of the auditorium and changed to a new Band-Aid…just to be on the safe side. I don’t recommend getting any blood on the piano keys, especially if you’re visiting the church.

So, that’s my story of being oh-so-heroic!!! Have you ever had a similar experience? I would love to hear your story!!

P.S. And, since you’re wondering…no, I didn’t cut my hand last night washing the spaghetti jar. But I did wash very carefully and with much concentration and prayer!!